Crusaders in the Holy Land: A Unique Civilization

The Crusades have long been a contentious topic, and over the years scholarship has largely fallen into two camps: those that view this enterprise as European aggression (Ur-colonialism) and those that view it as a response to relentless Muslim aggression. The former view tends to predominate, especially in popular culture, where films, television shows and novels favor the trendy explanation of the Levant falling victim to “European violence.” Given the wide reach of media, such simplistic views have become “settled history.” Various efforts are made to counter this ideological reading of the Crusades (and the Middle Ages in general), but with little effect. The mainstream narrative yet holds sway, and in the popular mind the Crusades are evidence of innate European belligerence unleashed upon the world. One of the major problems with this narrative approach is Presentism, which then poses the “East” and the “West” as two irreconcilable monoliths that can only but continually clash. Saner scholarship recognizes the silliness of such an approach and has slowly been trying to make a difference by showing that the medieval world was neither ignorant nor parochial, and in which violence was more controlled than in our own day. The most recent example of such scholarship is Helena P. Schrader’s latest book, The Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades: Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilization, 1100-1300.

This eloquent book is a comprehensive narrative history of a unique Christian civilization in Palestine—the Crusader States. It is also a noble and honest effort to “set the record straight,” by presenting the entirety of the crusading effort as one of interaction, in which the East and the West met and fashioned a unique civilization. In the words of Schrader:

“While historians of past centuries portrayed the Latin Christians living in these states as a tiny, urban elite afraid to venture into the countryside out of fear of their subjects, there is a growing consensus among the scholars of the twenty-first century that the majority of the population was Christian, not Muslim, and that the degree of intermingling and tolerance between Latin and Orthodox Christians was much higher than had been assumed” (xxxiv).

Towards this end, the book seeks to be as meticulous and well-researched as possible, in which it aptly succeeds. It begins with a 24-page chronology that details the history of the Levant within the context of Christianity (which brought Catholics, commonly known as the “Franks” or “Latins,” into the region, who then established various principalities, or “Crusader States,” which were politically linked with each other and with Europe) and Islam (which eventually gave the Turks enduring dominance in the Holy Land).

The book is divided into two parts, wherewith the analysis moves from the larger to the particular. Thus, Part I, “A Short History of the Crusader States,” describes the process through which the Franks came to the Levant and set up religious, political, cultural and military structures which would ensure that the Holy Land would remain territory essential and important to the Christian faith. This meant the establishment of permanent settlements, or what later became known as the “Crusader States,” or “Outremer” (“Overseas”), as the people of that time called this settlement. Schrader carefully traces the course that needed to be followed to ensure success in this undertaking, and as such follows the rise and fall of the Crusader States, from 1099 (when Jerusalem came under Frankish rule) to 1291 when Acre fell and Frankish influence contracted and eventually disappeared from the region.

The importance of Part I is that it gives the reader a thorough understanding of the complexity of the Crusades in their entirety, while never neglecting the dynamics at play in the Muslim world, where Mongol, Turk and Egyptian rivalries held sway. It is truly commendable that Schrader offers an all-inclusive review of the forces in contention in the Levant over a two-hundred-year period. What emerges is the real picture of the Crusades—that they were a massive investment of effort, talent, money and most of all of faith which allowed for a unique civilization to emerge and flourish, becoming an envy of the world in so many ways.

It is the quality and quantity of this “Crusader” or “Frankish” civilization that Schrader turns to in Part II of her book, which is sub-titled, “A Description of the Crusader States.” Here, Schrader really comes into her own as she takes the reader on a captivating “journey” into the world of Outremer. Each chapter presents facts and analysis, so that a lot of the popular myths about the Crusades are laid to rest. For example, we learn that the population of the Levant was predominantly Christian and not Muslim, as widely and mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the Christian population of what is now known as the Middle East and even Central Asia was heavily Christian. It was only in the fourteenth century that the Christians of the East were methodically annihilated, and the area became what it is today—the final chapter of this annihilation was the Armenian Genocide (which occurred in two parts: 1890-1909 and 1915-1917). Of course, this topic lies outside the scope of Schrader’s book.

Next, Schrader examines the complex polity that emerged in Outremer, the concept of the “nation-state,” which of course had a direct influence on the life of the West in the centuries ahead, down to our own time, where the nation-state is the prime form of civilization. In other words, Outremer was a two-hundred-year long success story—it was hardly colonial “occupation.” The reason for this success, as Schrader shows, is the stability of the institutions that were rather quickly established, such as the very effective judiciary, in which the Muslim peasantry prospered (unlike Muslim peasantry in Islamic-run jurisdictions), as well as the establishment of churches and monasteries which allowed culture, learning and the Christian faith to flourish, especially the ease of pilgrimage (which led to the rise of Holy Land “tourism,” and all of the support industries that tourists need).

Diplomacy was another key component of the success of Outremer, whereby a balance of power was effectively achieved and maintained between the various rivals, namely, Mamluk Egypt, the debilitated Byzantine rule, the many fiefdoms of the Turks, and the Mongol Empire. It was the Crusader States who “micro-managed” this balancing act, so that trade between the East and the West flourished, despite the ambitions of particular rulers: “The willingness… to treat with the religious and strategic enemy on a short-term tactical basis meant that de facto peace reigned in the crusader states far more frequently than war” (193) , because “the Franks maintained sophisticated and largely effective diplomatic relations with all the major players in the Eastern Mediterranean” (196).

As Schrader also points out, the Levant was a backwater before the Crusaders came—but because the land was holy to Christianity, it saw a massive input that transformed the region into a going concern: “Investment into infrastructure revitalised the rural economy and enabled the expansion of trading networks. Existing cities grew, and ancient cities such as Caesarea and Ramla, which had gone to ruin, were revived. Indeed, entire new settlements and villages were built. The larger cities, such as Acre, Tyre, Beirut, Tripoli and Antioch, became booming urban centres with larger populations than the capitals of the West. Not until the mid-thirteenth century did Western European cities start to compete in size with the cities of the Latin East” (197).

As well, this investment returned strategic importance: “Most importantly, the Franks connected the traditional oriental trade routes with the growing, increasingly prosperous and luxury-hungry markets of Western Europe” (198). The reason for this flourishing trade was the building of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water management. Trade agreements were struck and banking practices introduced, which then led to manufacturing. Sugar, textiles (especially silk, samite and siqlatin), soap, wine, olive oil, leather goods, glass were all manufactured in the Crusader States.

Given this revitalization program, agriculture returned to this land long considered barren, so that cities began to flourish, and a distinct Outremer culture emerged, such as icon painting, book production, shrines and holy places where the faithful came in droves to receive blessing in the land trodden by God Himself, as the famous 13th century Palestinalied (Song of Palestine) relates: “Ich bin komen an die stat,/ dâ got menischlîchen trat (I am come to the city where God trod as a man).” This spiritual “currency” lay at the heart of this region, a “currency” that could never be depleted. And here the work of charity was paramount, which saw the building of hospitals, caravanserais, inns, as well as monasteries, churches and many chapels by confraternities and monastic orders.

The cities themselves were well-planned, with effective sewage systems, baths and even flushing toilets. Trade supplied the many open-air and enclosed markets. There were orchards and gardens surrounding each city, with aqueducts, pools and fountains to supply water. It is important to note that many of these cities were not fortified—that is, they did not lie inside protective walls—cities such as Nazareth, Hebron, Nablus and Ramla. This detail is important—for it points to the fact that life was, in fact, very peaceful, which flies in the face of the usual and popular trope of Crusader brutality.

But this not to say that the military aspect was not important, for defense was necessary, given the endless ambitions of the rulers of the time (Mongol, Mamluk and Turk). Thus, Frankish Levant saw the emergence of unique castle styles, chief and most impressive of which was the concentric castle, the best examples of which is Krak de Chevaliers and Belvoir which overlooks the Jordan valley (“Belvoir” in Old French means, “Good view”).

Frankish architecture was unique also because it did not destroy what originally existed: “Beyond their sheer scale and number, one of the most striking features of these various projects was the degree to which the Franks sensitively and respectfully incorporated the remains of earlier buildings into their renovation projects. In sharp contrast to the prevailing view of crusaders as bigoted barbarians, when it came to architecture, the crusaders sought to preserve rather than destroy. This was true of Muslim structures as well as Christian ones” (233).

One of the greatest achievements of Outremer was its art and its literature, both little known and studied. There survives, for example, the exquisite Melisende Psalter, with its illustrations that perfectly combine Byzantine, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic and Latin elements to produce a style that is original to Outremer. And then there are the frescoes of the 12th century Church of St. Jeremiah at Abu-Ghosh (the biblical Emmaus), which are the finest expression of Crusader art (despite their Byzantine “look”), although they now survive in a much damaged condition.

This comprehensive book ends with the history of the Ibelin family who typify the kinds of people that came to Outremer and made it the splendorous civilization that it was: “…while the Ibelins were undoubtedly exceptionally successful, they were also in many ways typical. They embodied the overall experience, characteristics and ethos of the Franks in the Holy Land. They came from obscure, probably non-noble origins, and the dynasty’s founder can be classed as an ‘adventurer’ and ‘crusader’. They rapidly put down roots in the Near East, intermarrying with native Christian and Byzantine elites. They were hardened and cunning fighting men able to deploy arms and tactics unknown to the West and intellectuals who could win wars with words in the courts. They were multilingual, cosmopolitan and luxury-loving, as comfortable in baths as in battles” (267).

But why did this great civilization in the Holy Land end, after two hundred years of great success? The answers are as varied as the scholars who seek to give a response to this question. Schrader is accurate in her own conclusion—that Outremer was a victim of its own success. Because it was such a “shining city on the hill,” others fought to possess it. But more tragically, the bane of Frankish rule was the incessant in-fighting, where factions vied for power and where loyalty was circumscribed by personal ambition. As well, the latter rulers had divided loyalty—they were more interested in maintaining their holdings and influence in Europe than looking after what previous generations had built in the Holy Land. It is that old cycle of civilization—the generations that inherent wealth effectively waste it and lose it.

And the legacy of Outremer? This is how Schrader summarizes it: “… the crusader states in the Levant were the home to a rare flourishing of international trade, intellectual and technological exchange, innovation, hybrid art forms and unique architecture, advances in health care and evolution of the constitutional principles of the rule-of-law” (305).

For its scope, its depth and its variety of subject matter, this book truly succeeds as a work of exceptional narrative history. By glancing at the past, we may well learn something about the narrowness of our own age.

C.B. Forde confesses to being a closet history buff, that is whenever he can tear himself away from the demands of the little bit of land that he cultivates.

Featured: The Last Judgment, a fresco in the Church of St. Jeremiah (Emmaus), in Abu-Ghosh, Israel; painted in the latter parts of the 12th century.

How the West Brought War to Ukraine: A Review

[Read an excerpt from How the West Brought War to Ukraine]

It can be rather effectively argued that the greatest export commodity of the USA is war, commonly known as the Military Industrial Complex, which has spent the bloody decades after WWII bringing “democracy” to the benighted of the world—by bombs and sanctions, if necessary.

The latest such grand crusade is the war in Ukraine, which we have all been told to think of as “us” defending a fragile “democracy,” invaded out of the blue by the latest manifestation of Attila the Hun. Here was Ukraine happily minding its own business, until one day Putin woke up and decided that he needed to be a world-conqueror and off he went to “invade” Ukraine. The simplistic narrative of the “innocent” and the “criminal” has deep appeal in the Western psyche, conditioned no doubt by Hollywood. Thus, all the media had to do was point out the “criminal,” and the rest took care of itself. Out came all the virtue-signaling that the West is now so good at mustering. Now, there is not a shred of doubt in the minds of the majority in the West that this is a war between the “good guys” and the “Great Villain,” with the likes of Biden, Justin Trudeau, Britain and all the other cheerleaders for “democracy” constantly handing David’s loaded sling-shot to Ukraine to get the job done—but which the likes of Zelensky keep dropping. This is what fighting villainy to the last Ukrainian actually looks like.

But there is a far worse invasion that was completed a long time ago—that of the Western mind, addled by what is euphemistically known as “the mainstream media,” which knows that spin is the most effective form of victory in any war.

This is why Benjamin Abelow’s book, How the West brought War to Ukraine is a must-read, for it shows that this war is not about Ukraine, but about Russia, which needs to be brought to heel and become “democratic”: “…the vaunted goal of ‘regime change,’ which in the United States is sought by an informal alliance of Republican neoconservatives and Democratic liberal interventionists” (p. 5).

Abelow is careful in his analysis and gives a thorough and balanced account of what led Russia to undertake an attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Despite mainstream narratives, the attack was carefully provoked (orchestrated comes to mind). So, unlike “settled history,” which would have us believe that Ukraine is the “innocent bystander” in all this, Abelow undertakes a meticulous unpacking of the various provocations (Ukrainian and Western), which began in 1990 and finally came to a head on February 24, 2022. Wars don’t just happen; they are the result of a long series of failures and outrages. In the words of Professor Richard Sakwa: “In the end, NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage the security threats provoked by its enlargement. The former Warsaw Pact and Baltic states joined NATO to enhance their security, but the very act of doing so created a security dilemma for Russia that undermined the security of all” (p. 51).

Given that Russia is a nation-state, it must look after its geopolitical interests and defend what is crucial to what it deems necessary to continue, as Jacques Baud has so often pointed out in this magazine. Not to recognize these interests is to be blind to reality: “The underlying cause of the war lies not in an unbridled expansionism of Mr. Putin, or in paranoid delusions of military planners in the Kremlin, but in a 30-year history of Western provocations, directed at Russia, that began during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and continued to the start of the war. These provocations placed Russia in an untenable situation, for which war seemed, to Mr. Putin and his military staff, the only workable solution” (p. 7).

These provocations are now well-known, and thus rigorously ignored, denied or glossed over as “Russian propaganda.” These include bringing arms as close to the Russian border as possible; the expansion of NATO, despite promises given to Russia that that would never happen; the withdrawal of the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (which now gives the US first-strike capability); the ousting of a democratically elected Ukrainian government and installing neo-Nazis into power in 2014; NATO military exercises along the Russian border; pushing Ukraine to join NATO, despite warnings from Russia that that would mean war; since 2014, training and arming the Ukrainian military, in which many of the units are openly neo-Nazi; actively nurturing Russophobia in Ukraine; encouraging the bloody war in the Eastern portions of Ukraine, which were seen as “pro-Russian” and therefore hostile. There are many others that can be listed.

Of course, the last provocation was telling Zelensky not to negotiate when Russia attacked on February 24. He was ready to do so, and a war would have easily have been avoided, and many helpless lives saved. But Boris Johnson flew out, met the Ukrainian president, and negotiation was off the table.

And this is the most baffling thing—the West does not want peace at all. It wants a war of total annihilation for Russia, which will never happen, of course, but which the West so far seems not to understand (perhaps because it is now governed by leaders who have little understanding of warcraft). No Western politician bravely calls for negotiations, for a ceasefire, for peace, for even a little breather. It’s war and more war, and the billions and arms keep pouring in: “To my knowledge, Zelensky never received any substantial American support to pursue his peace agenda. Instead, he was subjected to repeated visits by leading American politicians and State Department officials, all of whom spouted a theoretical principle of absolute Ukrainian freedom, defined as the “right” to join NATO and to establish a U.S. military outpost on Russia’s border. In the end, this “freedom” was worse than a pipe dream. Although it advanced the aims of the United States—or, more accurately, the interests of certain American political, military, and financial factions—it destroyed Ukraine” (p. 60).

The military historian Bernard Wicht, whose interview appears elsewhere in this magazine, very astutely observes that the West no longer has the ability to wage conventional war—not even the United States; this is why armed conflict in the 21st century is now “farmed” out to modern-day condottieri, who bring their private armies wherever their paymasters tell them to go. Is this is why billions are being sent to Ukraine, to pay for all the mercenaries? The war machine chugs along, indeed.

The strength of Abelow’s book is that it makes complexity accessible. Wars have so many moving parts, and Abelow with a deft hand guides the reader along. As is true of all good writers, this book is filled with clarity and insight, with an eye for the bigger picture, and all the while letting facts lead where they will. This is a rare talent nowadays.

Given the much-mentioned threat of nuclear war, the book ends with a prescient warning: “Policy makers in Washington and the European capitals—along with the captured, craven media that uncritically amplify their nonsense—are now standing up to their hips in a barrel of viscous mud. How those who were foolish enough to step into that barrel will find the wisdom to extricate themselves before they tip the barrel and take the rest of us down with them is hard to imagine” (p. 62).

Finally, as professor Sakwa pointed out, this entire tragedy would have been easily avoided if Zelensky had been encouraged to say just five little words: “Ukraine will not join NATO.” Why he could not say that lays the entire blood-guilt upon the collective leadership of the West.

How the West brought War to Ukraine is satisfying to read because it brings truth to light—and that is the highest calling any worthy writer can pursue. Rush out and buy it; and after you’ve read it, you will be both amazed and infuriated. The condottieri now run the show—but perhaps we the decent folk of this world will learn once again how to get rid of them. Perhaps this will be this war’s silver lining.

C.B. Forde lives in rural Ontario, Canada, where he reads, thinks and dreams.

Ukraine? Which Ukraine?

I’m a bit confused. I thought Putin had turned Ukraine into a hell-on-earth, top to bottom, left to right, where nothing but misery and desolation prevail. And so we have to send tons of money and weapons over there, so grandmothers and school kids can get armed-up and fight back the Russians, led by Putin who is Hitler’s clone. It’s total war, folks! And that’s why Gord, my neighbor down the road (about fifteen minutes away by car), now flies a Ukrainian flag from his porch. I’d never seen one before, and at first I thought it was one of those gay flags, until he set me straight. But it’s easy for him to get such international things because, as everyone knows, he’s a well-traveled man—he’s been out to Blyth twice (population not quite a thousand).

Anyway, him and me, we got to talking the other day, and sure enough Ukraine came up, as it always does in any polite conversation. And in his helpful way, Gord informed me that Ukraine is “just acrosst from England, there.” This then got him to talking about the “Red Army,” which is now trying to take over Ukraine. Being of a scholarly bent, Gord knew all about the Red Army since another friend, who runs a feedmill two towns over, had a granduncle or other who was a cook in the Canadian army during World War Two and who was the ultimate and reliable source of everything Gord now knows about what’s actually going on in Ukraine. “In Russia, there, they call their army, the ‘Red Army.’ That’s their name for it, just like we call our army the Canadian army.” I understood the linguistic analogy immediately… I think. Anyway, bottom line—don’t trust Russians. They just aren’t like us; never can be.

Here, I had to ask Gord about our mutual friend Serge and his wife and their three kids; everyone knows they’re Russians. Could we trust them? Gord had to think this one through a bit because he always thought Serge was out from Quebec-way, since his name sure is French (here Gord got to telling me about his childhood hockey hero, Serge Savard of the Montreal Canadiens). I guess that’s why we always pronounce Serge’s name as “Surge,” and not “Sir-gay” (which by the looks of thing just doesn’t sit right. Would you want to be called that any day of the week?)

Finally, Gord concluded that since Serge was over here and not a member of the Red Army which is now fighting “acrosst in Ukraine,” Serge is fine. This made sense, and our conversation moved on to more important things, like the oiler that wasn’t working too good on his chainsaw. I was over helping Gord cut down a few trees for firewood; winter now being a few months away.

But let me get to the part about my confusion, otherwise we’ll be here all day with Gord, who as everyone knows is a real talker, and I could regale you with all kinds of stories about him, seeing as he’s so well informed. But that’s not why I’m writing this. No, sir. You see, one of Gord’s favorite pastimes is watching a few Youtube videos after dinner with Eileen, his wife. It’s not like he’s wasting time and watching silly things like cats. Not at all. You see, Gord’s also a great woodsman, and he’s discovered these niche Youtube channels. His favorites are videos showing people cooking on an open fire, which is like a gatey to all of kinds of other similar channels. You’d think he’d watch something other than what Eileen usually does in summer, since they tend to cook outdoors when the weather is warm (keeps the house form heating up).

Once the wood-splitting was done for the day, he asked me to stay for dinner, which I did and afterwards we all sat down in front of his computer (he’s got it hooked up to bigger screen) and watched some of these videos.

It’s riveting stuff, and countries you’ve never heard of are in on the act (thanks to Youtube monetization, why wouldn’t they be?); countries like Dagestan and places like Ferghana and Tashkent. Never mind the geography, it’s that primitive fascination with meat meeting fire. Oh, and there’s travel involved, too, because you get to see places you’ll never go to. Iran has innovated the genre, bringing in pretty girls, in native costumes…

And why should Ukraine be left behind in contributing to this genre and making some decent Youtube money? Who cares if there’s a war devastating the entire country. The show must go on. Here are some of Gord’s favorites from Ukraine…

First, there’s a channel called, “Pavlo from Ukraine,” where this guy gets his pretty girlfriend to show us the sights of real Ukrainian farm life…

And, then, she gets on her bike and shows us her village…

The best way to experience an active war-zone, I say, is by watching a pretty girl riding on a bike, in short dress billowing in the wind…

Of course, even during war, there’s always time to look after the environment. Here’s Pavlo with his girlfriend cleaning the nearby river. Pollution is such a terrible thing; much worse than war even, in so many ways…

Then, one day, both of them headed off to Kyiv (how the heck are you supposed to say that??), and the war-zone they showed was just mind-boggling. Poor Ukraine…

And you thought life during a war was horrible. Well… it is! Just look at the place. Renting a scooter is no joke.

And here’s what a Ukrainian grocery store looks like in wartime. The important point Pavlo wants to make, to keep you from sitting there in agonizing suspense, is that prices have gone up…

You sure got that right, Pavlo. Prices have gone way up here, too—and that’s without the Red Army banging at the door. Just a bit of sacrifice for democracy. But at least they still get to have plastic bags in Ukraine. Over here you have to find our own to get groceries home from the store. That fact alone is enough to keep sending our money over there.

OK, enough of the mystery. Pavlo’s girlfriend has a name, and she’s called Luba, and you guessed it—she has her own Youtube channel, imaginatively called, “Luba from Ukraine.” As you know, the word “Ukraine” is the cat’s meow right now, so why not milk it for all its worth.

Luba is a real cook, and she can show you how to make all kinds of stuff…

And here Luba is out gone fishing…

The real suspense of me watching Pavlo and Luba was anticipating when the Red Army was going to show up and cut short the filming. I asked Gord if there’s a video of Pavlo and Luba meeting the Red Army and having them over for a cook-out, like the corn roast that’s going to be coming up at the park where we are next month. But Gord told me he hadn’t found one yet on their two channels. But he was sure they were going to do one.

And there’s more from where that comes from. There’s another channel in which different people in Ukraine show life on the farm. And you’d think Gord, having been a farmer all his life, would want to see something else… like city-life in Paris or maybe Chinese opera.

Anyway, this channel is called, “Food Around the World.” At first, I thought Gord said, “Fool around the world” and was expecting to see hijinks and prank videos. But instead, the channel is all about showing life in rural Ukraine, with lots of shots of mountains, ponds, grain fields and fruit trees. Not different at all from what we’ve got around here, actually. They’ve even got wood-fire ovens for bread, like some of us have built in this world. Bread just isn’t the same without real fire.

You can watch these rural Ukrainians cook stuff you’d never think of eating like boiled bits of dough stuffed with ground up tripe, or you can kind-of learn how to butcher a pig, or grow potatoes…

It’s all very instructive, too, especially if you belong to the great unwashed that we call “city-folk.” Want to try your hand at cutting down some wheat, flailing out the kernels, grinding them out and making bread? The Ukrainians have you covered…

And then, there’s a whole two-hours of the best bits from all this channel’s videos. Gord had already seen it, so we skipped over that one (Gord is nothing if not kind).

Now, you might have heard that the Red Army was busy slaughtering anything that moved in a place called Bucha. And sure enough, Food Around the World is on location. You see some wrecked buildings in the beginning and a bunch of people sitting around waiting for bread to be baked, and then it’s on to a bakery run by two guys who get busy baking bread…

After all the devastation by the Red Army, the gas still flows to fire up the bread ovens, and I guess there’s never any shortage of things like flour and yeast. It sure is good to see that the money we’re sending over is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

Then, there’s a video that really pulls at the heartstrings (and Eileen’s favorite, I might add. Poor Gord gets a lump in his throat watching this one). It shows a bunch of kids making some cookies. We’re told they’re refugee kids who have been put to work making cookies for other refugee kids. This video has gotten the most views, something like a million and a half. And why not? This is the Ukraine the world really wants to watch…

The owner of this channel says in the description that he can’t make videos anymore because of the war. But I guess that was just temporary, because he’s still making videos.

And, getting back to Kyiv, there’s also a channel called Food and Life, which shows some fancy restaurants in that city; not from long ago—but right now. Let’s see, there’s a place where you can get burgers and fries…

You can try some local fare at an artsy restaurant…

And even pick up flowers, just before your hot date…

After spending a good two hours watching this stuff. I had to head back home and took my leave. Time sure flies when you’re having fun.

But Gord sure opened my eyes to what’s really going in Ukraine. There’s a war on, but everything looks normal. The Ukrainian people are suffering miserably, but most seem to be going about their business like all of us here.

Sure, I can dig up all kinds of videos of suffering and death in Ukraine on Youtube—but how come there are also these other videos? So, which Ukraine is really suffering? Where in Ukraine is the “war” actually happening? Are there two Ukraines, one bucolic and one war-torn? No one seems to be able to tell me. From what we’re told over here, all of Ukraine is devastated by the war, except for the Ukraine in these videos. So, they must have two Ukraines. That must be it. One Ukraine for fighting the Red Army, and other other Ukraine for pretty girls to ride around, and all those happy peasants. Yeah, that would make sense. But just to make sure, I’ll ask Gord. He’ll know what’s what. Besides there’s still quite a bit of wood waiting to be chopped.

C.B. Forde lives and farms near a small town in Ontario, Canada.

Featured: Apple blossom in Little Russia,” by Nikolay Sergeyev; painted in 1895.

The Nazis Of Ukraine

There is an inconvenient truth that those beating the war-drum against Russia love to ignore—namely, the Nazis of Ukraine. We are told that this is all somehow “Russian disinformation/misinformation,” or that Putin loves to call people whom he doesn’t like, “Nazis” (notice, this is what actually is done in the West against opponents of the elite). Of course, no real evidence is ever given to back up these claims, as has now become a sad habit, any self-righteous assertion is considered “truth.”

Here are the facts about Nazis in Ukraine. The drumbeaters have yet to disprove any of them.


When Hitler invaded Ukraine, for many it was a liberation from communism and openly celebrated, and soon led to the creation of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician” (later, the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, 1st Galician). It was nearly annihilated in the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive (1944). What remained was regrouped as the Ukrainian National Army (UNA), under the German High Command (OKH) and led by General Pavlo Shandruk (1889-1979). The UNA numbered some 220,000 volunteers and fought in various theatres throughout Europe with the Wehrmacht, including Austria. What marked all these volunteers was a strong antipathy to the Soviet Union. With the defeat of the Nazis, the UNA surrendered to the British and the US. All the volunteers did not want to be sent back to the Ukraine and sought asylum elsewhere (a large number coming to Canada and the US).

General Shandruk struck a special deal with Poland (with the help of General Władysław Anders), which accepted members of the UNA as “pre-war Polish citizens.” Shandruk was given the Polish Virtuti Militari order, and he settled in Germany, before eventually moving to the US, where he died in 1979.

In effect, in Ukraine, Nazi Germany was not regarded as the enemy; rather, it was an ally in the fight against the Soviet Union, or the “Russians.” And therefore the negativity associated with Nazis and Nazism is weak, if not absent, in the Ukrainian context, where “uncle Hitler” was seen as a liberator from the Soviets.

This positive view of Germany goes back to that bloody period after the Russian Revolution, when Civil War broke out in all parts of what was once the Russian Empire, fueled by resistance to the Bolsheviks. As happened everywhere in the former Russian Empire, regions that did not want to become communist went into armed conflict with the Bolsheviks, including Ukraine, which declared itself independent of Moscow in 1918, with the establishment of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR).

The Bolsheviks did not accept such independence and launched a series of highly successful campaigns in the region that saw the capture of key cities and put the UPR government in a position of total collapse. To prevent such collapse, the UPR turned for help to Germany, which quickly sent in troops and supplies, and bolstered the weak Ukrainian National Army (UNA), and beat back the Reds.

But it was 1918, and Germany itself was exhausted and before long signed the Armistice of November 11, 1918, thus ending the First World War. This left Ukraine to fight on, on its own, until gradually it lost and became part of the Soviet Union, in 1922, as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Thus, in the post-1917 Ukrainian psyche, the enemy was always the Soviets, or the Russians, while Germany, whether in the figure of Kaiser Wilhelm or Hitler, was always the friend. Thus, also Nazism carried none of the negative connotations in Ukraine as it carries in the West.

Stepan Bandera

A Nazi-sympathizer, collaborator and murderer, Stepan Bandera is nevertheless a hero for many now fighting the Russians in Ukraine. His statues are proudly displayed and streets are named after him. Who was he? (What follows is summarized from Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist, by Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe.)

Born in Galicia (now Western Ukraine, but then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Bandera early showed signs of violence. As a university student in Lvov, he routinely tortured himself in order to toughen himself up for the time when authorities might question him. Such discipline included self-flagellation and slamming a door on his fingers. He was getting ready for his life ahead—as a national revolutionary.

By this time, the Russian Revolution had already happened and new countries came into existence. But in Eastern Europe, the struggle was not simply the winning of a national destiny but also the fight for or against communism; for the Russian Revolution had also unleashed a bloody civil war which would devour entire populations. What was once Galicia now became part of Poland. The eastern portions of Ukraine belonged to the Soviets. Both outcomes stuck in the craw of the nationalists who wanted to unite the western portion and the eastern portions into one unified whole (Ukraine). The eastern portions had already been engaged in a long, bloody war with the Soviets (from 1917 to 1921), a war which was lost.

At the age of 20, Bandera joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), in whose ranks he rose quickly, given his penchant for violence. Aside from robberies (to fund the movement), in 1933, he organized an attack on the Soviet embassy in Lvov, killing one of the staff. This was the first of his murders in the thousands. In 1934, he planned and carried out the assassination of Bronisław Pieracki, the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as other murders. Bandera was arrested by the Poles, tried and given a death sentence, which was commuted to life. But the killings continued. Things got so bad that the Polish government carried out mass arrests of OUN members, which led to further dislike of Poland. Just before the outbreak of the war, the general sentiment was to appeal to Hitler to come and rescue Ukraine.

And in 1939, it seemed Hitler granted the Ukrainians their dearest wish; he invaded Poland. In the fog of war, Bandera escaped from prison and made his way to his allies, the invading Germans. As Bandera declared the “German army as the army of allies.” Once safely among the Nazis, Bandera created a break-away “Bandera faction” of the OUN, known as “OUN-B[andera],” or Banderites, whose goal was to fashion a Nazi Ukraine, under the auspices of Hitler, because Bandera had stated that “German and Ukraine interests” were identical.

The Banderites set up various militias, such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and Ukrainian People’s Militsiya, or the Ukrainian National Militsiya. The Banderites then undertook vicious reprisals and ethnic-cleaning actions, against Poles, communists, “ethnic Russians,” and against Jews. Or, in the words of Bandera: “Muscovites, Poles, and Jews” must be “destroyed.”

It was during this time that a distinct Ukrainian “identity” was also fashioned, one which stated that the “real” Ukrainians were supposed descendants of Vikings who set up Kievan Rus. There is no real historical or genetic basis for this designation, but it was a convenient merging with Nazi ideology. In other words, in the “true Ukraine,” there were the superior humans and the sub-humans. This “Germanic identity” of Ukraine would have tragic consequences down to today.

The inevitable result of all this was mass slaughter of those that were “undesirable,” the bloodiest of which occurred in June and July of 1941, all coordinated by Bandera, and in which some 9,000 people were murdered (Jews, Poles, and “Muscovites”).

Given the success of this violence and thinking that he had the upper hand, Bandera blundered and declared the Ukraine as independent, and so was promptly arrested by his friends, the Nazis, who sent him off to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he stayed until 1944, when he was released to coordinate resistance against the Red Army, a task he took up with renewed fervor.

After the war, the Banderites were reorganized by the British (MI6) and the CIA, as a way to fight the Soviets. During this time, Bandera moved about, often in disguise and in secret, and always protected by the many members of the former SS, who had found convenient shelter in Ukraine and who formed an extensive underground network.

During this time, Bandera and his organizations killed thousands; some say hundreds of thousands; and all the while he worked closely with the BND, the Federal Intelligence Service of what was then West Germany.

Finally, Bandera was assassinated by the Soviets in Munich, in 1959. But this did not end the deep influence of Hitler and the Nazis in the aspirations of Ukraine nationalists—so much so that it is now difficult to say where Nazism ends and Ukrainian nationalism begins.

In the new Ukraine, statues of Bandera are everywhere. He is the official, national hero.

Which Ukrainians?

In view of the above, it is important to note that theme of the “Ukrainian people” is again at the center of the current Ukraine-Russia conflict. In the West, this has come to mean an alliance with the “Ukrainians” in order to defeat the Russians who are regarded as aliens and who do not belong to “us.” Such is the legacy of Nazism in Ukraine, in that people repeat its core tenet of the inferior Other, in their “defense” of Ukraine. Russians are not “Western” and so must be fought and defeated. That is the gist of the hysterical Russophobia that now grips the West, where “innocent Ukraine” and the “bully Russia” has become “settled science.”

Few in the grip of this hysteria seem to want to understand the complexity involved, let alone the near-impossibility of separating Ukrainian nationalism from Nazism—for the Banderites never went away—meaning that the Ukraine was never de-Nazified. Rather, the Banderites became inseparable from the country’s power-structures and institutions. This relationship only intensified with the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Ukraine became independent in 1991, and when Ukrainian nationalism gained full legitimacy.

And the myth of a “superior, Germanic Ukrainian” was central to the “new Ukraine,” which in turn was central to Euromaidan and what came later—the relentless slaughter of the “sub-humans” in the Donbas regions, as many have meticulously catalogued from 2014 to today.

And according to current Ukrainian law, there are two kinds of “Ukrainians”—the “Germanic Ukrainians,” along with allied people, the Tatars and Karaites (neither of whom actually live in Ukraine).

Then, there are the undesirable people, who are not legally “Ukrainians.” These are the Slavs, and a few others like the Magyars and the Romani who are denied the use of their own language in public. They have to use the official “Ukrainian” language which officially has nothing to do with Russian (!!).

This is the “Law of the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” which states that only Germanic Ukrainians, Tatars and Karaites have “the right to fully enjoy all human rights and all fundamental freedoms.” It was signed into law by the current BFF of the West, President Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 21, 2021. In other words, racial segregation of society into the Uebermenschen and the Untermenschen.

This law is not an aberration; rather it reflects the widespread view of where Ukraine “belongs.” For example, in 2018, a book appeared (which became a bestseller and won the Stepan Bandera Prize) in which wide-ranging claims were made about ancient Aryan Ukrainians who invented all kinds of things, including civilization itself. The book was happily “reviewed” by three professors of history and philology at Lviv University (Iryna Kochan, Viktor Golubko and Iosif Los).

As a further demonstration of this positive understanding of Nazis, recently the Ukrainian Parliament tweeted out a photo, comparing what the Russians were supposedly doing to what happened to Hamburg in 1943. The tweet was subsequently deleted. This could again be naivete. But in the context of Ukraine’s twentieth-century history, this should never be assumed.

Then, there is Hitler as the protector of Ukraine, a trope that appears often in children’s school textbooks. For example, one of the more popular textbooks is Andrei Kozitsky’s История Украины. 1914-2014 (History of Ukraine. 1914-2014), in which Ukrainian patriots often wear Nazi uniforms.

In another such textbook, Hitler is nearly teary-eyed with Ukrainian nationalism: “On April 1, 1939, he [Hitler] said: ‘My soul aches when we see the suffering of the noble Ukrainian people… The time has come to create a common Ukrainian state.'”

In other words, in Ukraine, uncle Hitler was never the bad guy; and Nazis equal real Ukrainian nationalism.

The West’s Grooming Of Nazis

Although the term “Nazi” is tossed about in the West to smear ideological opponents, the West also has a long and sordid history of grooming neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

In 2007, the CIA put together a “conference” of various anti-Russian factions in Ukraine whose purpose seems nothing other than to groom neo-Nazis and jihadists, both groups being solidly anti-Russian. Overseeing the conference was Dmytro Yarosh, who led the Trident and the Right Sector, both neo-Nazi organizations. Yarosh’s career is widely known.

These various neo-Nazi units were organized into anti-Russian fighters, trained by the West, and which were integrated into the Ukrainian army. Victoria Nuland, in 2021, told Zelensky to appoint Yarosh as adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian army—because no one can fight Russians better than Nazis, right? After 2014, the West actively protected these neo-Nazi groups

Of course, it is usual to hear that all this is “Russian disinformation,” and that Putin just likes to call people he doesn’t like “neo-Nazis.” The facts, however, are straight-forward enough. Here are the larger units of neo-Nazis, or Banderites currently fighting Russians in Ukraine:

  • Members of Svoboda (formerly the “Nation-Social Party of Ukraine,” which curiously rhymes with Hitler’s “National-Socialist German Workers Party”)
  • The AZOV Battalion (likely now destroyed by the Russians)
  • C14 of Kiev
  • The Aidar Battalion (destroyed recently by the Russians)
  • The Wotanjugend (who are actually Russian in origin)
  • Ukraine Patriot (co-founded by Andriy Parubiy)
  • The National Militia
  • Karpatska Sich
  • Freikorps

There are also many other smaller units (more than 30) that have merged with the larger ones, and all have been integrated into the Ukrainian army. And the various symbols of these organizations are common-place in Ukraine (i.e., the Sonnenrad, the Totenkopf, the Wolfsangel). After 2014, Ukraine also became the main “exporter” of Nazi ideology throughout the world (the mosque shooter in New Zealand was an ardent supporter, for example).

Fighting alongside the neo-Nazis and the Ukrainian army are a slew of jihadis and mercenaries, many of whom are from other Western neo-Nazi groups like the Misanthropic Division. These mercenaries are known as the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

There are some who say that none of this is true because Zelensky is Jewish. There is no need to go into the history of Jewish collusion with the Nazis. Suffice to say that the Azov Battalion, and various other neo-Nazi militias, are funded by the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky who happens to be Jewish and who, it is said, hand-picked Zelensky. Both men also figure prominently in the Pandora Papers which further explains Zelensky the billionaire, complete with a mansion in Florida, lording it over the poorest nation in Europe.

Trudeau And The Nazis

In 2016, the government of Canada invited Andriy Parubiy to Ottawa, when he was the leader of the Social-National Party of Ukraine (now Svoboda), co-founder of Ukraine Patriot, and at that time Parliamentary Speaker of the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament). And Trudeau met him again in Ukraine later that same year.

In 2018, Parubiy opined about democracy: “I’m a major supporter of direct democracy… By the way, I tell you that the biggest man, who practiced a direct democracy, was Adolf Aloizovich [Hitler—and note the use of the honorific form of Adolf’s name, to show great respect].”

In his inimical way, Trudeau lined up with Ukrainian nationalism in a tweet (here translated from the French): “Five years ago, brave Euromaidan protesters were killed in Ukraine while demanding a better future for their country. Today, we honour the Hundred Heavenly Heroes and their sacrifices for democracy. Canada will always stand with the Ukrainian people.”

Irony aside, from the man who is now dictator of Canada, “the Hundred Heavenly Heroes” refers to protestors during Euromaidan who died, many of whom were neo-Nazis.

This may all be put down to naivete, but it is also clear that when Parubiy was invited to Ottawa, the government was fully briefed about his neo-Nazi credentials. But it seemed not to matter, in the greater game of besting Russia.

Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that Trudeau’s prominent role in backing Zelensky does have a precedent, and that neo-Nazis in Ukraine are perfectly acceptable, as long as they fight Russians. This is a very old story in Ukraine.

More recently, the current Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland happily posed with a neo-Nazi banner and posted the photo on Twitter, then removed it and posted another without the banner, while saying that anyone who said that she posed with a neo-Nazi banner was obviously spreading “Russian disinformation.”

The black-and-red banner read: “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”), and it was the slogan of Banderites and the official slogan of the OUN-B. The colors, black and red, are the banner of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

Of course, one should never believe one’s lying eyes. It is better to believe the official narrative. It is also said that Freeland’s own family has connections to Banderites. The point being, not blood-guilt, but the deep-rooted problem of Nazism in Ukraine.

Such images might be seen as “innocent mistakes.” But in the blood-soaked history of Ukrainian nationalism, they carry a lot of weight and are used as valuable currency.

But the West helping Nazis is also nothing new.

More Atrocities

Ever since 2014, the sad litany of atrocities committed by the neo-Nazis, especially the Azov Battalion, are well-known and widely catalogued. And in the recent conflict, it these neo-Nazi units who are at the forefront of committing further atrocities against civilians. And there are also false-flag operations and yet more atrocities. Where will justice for these crimes come from? From the enablers of the Nazis?

But it would seem, few in the West care, as long as we can all collectively hate Putin and his Russians. Hatred is a great unifier, while the West keeps handing out cash and Wunderwaffen, in the hope that a great Volkssturm will sweep the Russians back where they came from. But notice too that the model of such efforts is always Nazi Germany.

And why does no one object to civilians being made into combatants? Is it a tactical Western move to get “bad press” about Russians “killing civilians?” Whatever the case, Zelensky is certainly guilty of a terrible crime against his own people whom he has pitted against a trained, professional army—and how are Russian soldiers to differentiate between combatants and civilians? Such is the face of a war led by Wokists.

Putin famously, at the beginning of Operation Z, said that Ukraine was ruled by a bunch of drug-addicts and Nazis. Others have looked at the wide-spread drug habits of the rulers, and in the Ukrainian army. The neo-Nazis we have outlined here.

Russia will succeed in its objectives, because it is not led by hysterical woke social justice warriors; and Russia will finally ne-Nazify Ukraine, a job long overdue. Here is Konstantin Pulikovsky, the Russian commander who sets the record straight. His is a voice of true sobriety. (You can watch with translation enabled):

C.B. Forde practices permaculture and builds log-houses in remote locations.

Something About Those Ancient Greeks

The society in which we live, a liberal democracy, is the result not of events that happened all over the world – rather, it is the result of events that happened in just one country, ancient Greece. We are who we are not because of what happened in ancient China, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt or India (essential as the histories of these places are to our knowledge of the world).

Despite the passage of millennia, we still live in the world invented by the ancient Greeks. And because of the influence and spread of western technology, the entire globe has now been impacted by these Greeks of long ago. There is a reason why we want all people to be free; why we think more democracy is a good thing; why we worry about the environment; why we have immense faith in our ability to come up with solutions no matter how great the problem; why we believe education to be crucial to building a good life; why we seek self-respect. And this reason is simply stated: we have inherited – not created – a particular habit of mind, a way of looking at the world.

We live within a set of values that constantly encourage us to depend on reason, to seek out moderation and distrust excess, to live a disciplined life, to demand responsibility in politics, to strive for clarity of thought and ideas, to respect everyone and everything, including nature and the environment, and most of all to cherish and promote freedom. This is our inheritance from the ancient Greeks. We need to study them in order to learn and relearn about our intellectual, esthetic and moral inheritance – so that we might meaningfully add to them so that they may continue in the vast project of building the goodness of our society. This is why we need to study the Greeks, because through them we come to study ourselves.

And what about the Romans? They were the people that allowed Greek learning to be made available to the world. The ancient Romans adopted the Greek habit of mind and through their empire, which stretched from the borders of Scotland to the borders of Iran, they passed on this inheritance to all the people that lived within these borders. Thus, in studying the Romans, we come to understand how very difficult it has been for ideas, which we may take for granted, to come down to us. Whereas the ancient Greeks created the world we live in, the ancient Romans facilitated it by giving universality to the Greek habit of mind. Thus, to study both these civilizations is to begin to fully understand our own.

Earliest History of Greece

Prehistoric human settlement in the Greek peninsula stretches back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. By the time of the Bronze Age, different types of pottery helps us to demarcate the various phases of material culture. For the sake of convenience, historians have used these various types of pottery to work out a chronology of Greek prehistory. And because Greece is not only the peninsular mainland, but also the various islands in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, the pottery is sorted out by different regions.

Thus, the Bronze Age in the mainland is classified as Helladic (from 1550 B.C. to 1000 B.C.). On the island of Crete, the Bronze Age is labeled Minoan (from 3000 B.C. to about 1450 B.C.). And on the various islands of the Aegean, the Bronze Age is referred to as Cycladic, where it begins around 3000 B.C. and lasts until about 2000 B.C., at which time the culture of the Cyclades is absorbed into the greater Minoan civilization.

The Minoans

The earliest expression of Bronze Age civilization in Europe is found on the island of Crete, where a brilliant culture flourished from about 2700 B.C. to around 1450 B.C. It was brought to light in 1900 by the English archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated a large complex at Knossos, which he called a “palace.” But the “palace” he found was different from what we might imagine. It was a warren of maze-like adjoining rooms, where people lived and worked, and where oil, wine and grain were stored in massive clay jars, some as high as six feet. It was because of the labyrinthine nature of the palace’s layout that Evans called the civilization that he discovered, “Minoan,” after the Greek myth of King Minos of Crete, who had built a labyrinth to hide the Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull offspring of his wife, Pasiphae, who had fallen in love, and coupled, with a white bull.

The many wall-paintings from the palace give indication that the cult of the bull was prevalent among the ancient Cretans – the best example being the ritual or sport of “bull-leaping,” in which young men and women grasped the horns of a charging bull and leaped over its back to land behind the animal. It is difficult to say whether this was done as sport, or perhaps even as a religious dance. We cannot know since we have no contemporary written explanation for it.

Evans also found thousands of clay tablets with writing on them. The writing was in two versions of the same script. The first version he labeled Linear A, and the second he called Linear B. The only problem was that he could read neither. It would not be until 1952 when Michael Ventris finally deciphered Linear B and found the many texts in this script to be the earliest form of the Greek language. When the rules of decipherment were applied to Linear A, however, it was found to be a curious language that was not Greek, nor was it a language that could be placed in any known family group. Perhaps as further work is done on Linear A, it might disclose more of its secrets. But for now, the Minoan world is mysterious to us, because all we have are its material remains.

However, the more intriguing question that arises from the evidence we have is – how did the earliest form of the Greek language get mixed with a non-Greek language in the palace at Knossos? This question points us northwards to the mainland of Greece, and to a city known as Mycenae.

The Mycenaean Age

The speakers of the earliest form of Greek were the Mycenaeans, who were given their name from the city they inhabited, namely, Mycenae, where the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, in 1876, found a well-developed civilization, with a ruling warrior aristocracy who lived in fortified towns built on hilltops. Aside from Mycenae, the towns of Athens (a relatively unimportant place at this early time), Pylos, Tiryns, Iolkos and Orchomenus were also part of Mycenaean culture, which established itself around 1900 B.C. and endured until 1200 B.C.

Schliemann’s excavations revealed a circle of shaft-graves, in which the dead were buried standing up, and in which were found large quantities of weapons as well as gold objects, from funerary masks to goblets and jewelry. He also found evidence for the domesticated horse and the chariot – and, most important of all, there were found clay tablets with Linear B written on them, which would be deciphered as the earliest form of the Greek language. All these discoveries led to an important question – where did the Greeks come from because their language ultimately is not native to the land they came to inhabit.

If we examine the archaeological record of the time just before the Mycenaean age, we find massive destruction that lasted about a hundred years from 2200 B.C. to about 2100 B.C. And the material remains of the people that established themselves after the destruction were markedly different from those that lived in these same areas before. It is to this deep destruction that we can link the “coming of the Greeks,” a phrase much used by the historians of this era.

So, where did the Greeks come from?

The clues before us are two-fold: material and intellectual culture. The excavations at Mycenae yield several essential clues: chariot parts, horse tack, skeletal remains of horses, weapons and pottery; plus, there is also the fact that these people were speakers of early Greek, as demonstrated by the Linear B texts.

These clues points to one conclusion. The Mycenaeans came as invaders, likely from the north, and they destroyed what they found and took control and began to build their own fortified towns. And we know that they are invaders because of their language, which is a member of the Indo-European group of languages – and this tells us that these early Greeks came from elsewhere, since the origin of the Indo-European languages is in a place quite a bit distant from Greece. In the latter years of the third millennium, there were Indo-European invasions throughout Eurasia.

The origin of the Indo-Europeans is likely in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, what historians call the “Kurgan culture.” “Kurgan” refers to the grave mounds under which these early Indo-Europeans buried their dead. From this point of origin, the Indo-Europeans overran large parts of Europe and some parts of Asia. The languages they spoke were closely related and to this day comprise the largest family group in the world.

Thus, the indo-European languages consist of the ancient languages (and their descendents) of northern India (Vedic and Sanskrit) and Persia (Avestan and modern Persian), the Slavic languages, the Baltic languages (Lithuanian and Latvian), the Celtic and the Italic (Latin and its descendents, such as, French and Italian), the Germanic languages (such as, German and English), and of course Greek.

This affinity between languages extends further into intellectual culture, since there is a pronounced similarity, for example, between the myths of the various Indo-European peoples. The branch of Indo-Europeans that veered into Greece called themselves Achaeans, who spoke a very early form of Greek.

The Achaeans subdued the various non-Indo-European peoples that were living in Greece and set up suzerainty over them. The outcome of this process was what we call the Mycenaean civilization, which Schliemann excavated, as noted earlier. The Mycenaeans were known for their warrior culture, in which the chariot and the horse were much valued. By 1600 B.C. they had established a thriving culture, attested by the rich finds in the shaft-graves of Mycenae.

Around 1450 B.C. these Mycenaeans struck southward and conquered Crete and destroyed the Minoan civilization. But they were not above learning civilized ways from the people they had conquered – for it was soon after they had conquered Crete that the Mycenaeans adopted the art of writing invented by the Minoans, but they had adapt it to their own language, since the alphabet was not really useful for an Indo-European language which had many consonantal clusters, whereas the alphabet of the Minoans (Linear A) was syllablic (each letter represented a consonant and a vowel together).

It is for this reason that Sir Arthur Evans found texts written in both Linear A and Linear B at Knossos, since the Mycenaeans assumed control of this palace structure after their take-over of Crete; and in time they came to use the Linear alphabet.

The Bronze Age Collapse

The rule of the Mycenaeans in Greece and in Crete was fated. It was destroyed during a catastrophic period in Eurasian history known as “the Bronze Age Collapse,” during which a total of forty-seven important cities were attacked, their inhabitants either killed or enslaved, and the places burned to the ground. The swath of burned down cities is large and covers Syria, the Levant, Anatolia, Cyprus, Crete and Greece. From 1200 B.C. to about 1150 B.C., there were destructive raids by newer groups of Indo-European peoples, who had developed an innovative method of warfare, which gave them a greater advantage over the armies that these doomed cities could muster.

We have to keep in mind that the first Indo-European invasions, which saw the establishment of the Mycenaeans in Greece and Crete, were the result of the chariot and the composite bow.

The invasions which put an end to the Bronze Age were also successful because of a new type of warfare – the use of infantry armed with a long lance and a broad sword. The metal for these weapons was iron. Bronze weapons were no match for these iron lances and swords, and the chariots became useless, too, since the foot-soldiers could easily disable a charioteer with their long lances by spearing the warriors that rode inside. The Bronze Age was violently brought to an end by iron weapons.

Thus, the Iron Age begins with an enormous catastrophe – a total collapse of civilization. Once the large cities and palaces were destroyed, they were replaced by small communities of a few individuals; and these were often located not in the plains, but high in the uplands.

The Iron Age is also known as the Ancient Dark Age, because civilization, or city life, disappeared. The group of Indo-Europeans, who invaded Greece in the twelfth century B.C. and put an end to the Mycenaeans, are known as the Dorians; their name likely derives from the early Greek word, doru, which was the long wooden lance that they carried. It is from the various dialects of these new invaders that the Greek language developed.

The Ancient Dark Age

The invading people destroyed civilization and did not value living in palaces or large cities. Instead, they chose to live in smaller communities that had fewer luxuries and fineries which we usually associate with civilization. There is also evidence of depopulation since the settlements that replace the burned cities and palaces tend to be small and few. Pottery is no longer finely and elaborately decorated but has simple geometric patterns. The Dark Age lasted from 1200 B.C. to 800 B.C. and can be summarized as a period of petty tribalism.

However, we know a lot about this period because of two significant literary works that describe the people involved in these invasions. They are the two poems by the legendary poet Homer, namely, The Iliad and The Odyssey. In fact, the story of the siege of Troy may be a memory of the Bronze Collapse.

It is with Homer that we enter into recorded Greek history, known as the Archaic period.

The Archaic Period

From 800 B.C. to 480 B.C., Greece underwent revolutionary changes and began to emerge from its tribal era. This period saw the growth of cities once more, which was fueled by an increase in population and the expansion of commercial trade. The idea of people being ruled by kings vanished and was replaced by a new form of government, the city-state, in which people sought not to be warrior-heroes, but good citizens. As a result, there was a focus on refining city life, which led to great achievements in architecture, sculpture, art, commercial relations and trade, politics, and intellectual and cultural life.

Because of a greater population, colonies were established outside of Greece: in Sicily, southern Italy, eastern parts of Spain, along the southern coastline of France, at Cyrenaica in North Africa, in the Hellespont, and along the Black Sea. All this was possible because of the growth of technological knowledge, especially in the areas of shipbuilding and seafaring, as well as developments of a new form of government, the polis, or the city-state, which came about as a result of synoecism, or the gathering of various villages into single political entities or units.

It was because of advances in the archaic period that Greek city-states prepared themselves for the maturity and perfection that they would achieve in the fifth century B.C. And the most important of these cities was Athens, whose citizens radically and permanently changed the world around them – so much so that the ideas implemented by these men and the structures established by them are the very ones in which we still live. Civilization would never really look back, because of what was achieved in Athens in the fifth century B.C.

C.B. Forde lives, thinks, dreams in a rural setting.

The featured image shows, “Dance in ancient Greece,” by Johan Raphael Smith ca. 19th century.

Populism Versus Trumpism – The Way Forward

One of the greatest ironies, or perhaps tragedies, of history is that whenever a people seek freedom, they end up forging their own chains. For populists, one such chain is Trumpism. Not the man, of course, who has been made into a caricatured strongman syllogism by the media – but the catch-all phrase itself, which is used to demonize, belittle and humiliate all those whom the elite do not like, those who are the wrong kind of people, decried as being unfit for “modern society.” Labels, as we all know, are very helpful when it comes to categorizing people, especially the “undesirable,” who must either be retrofitted or silenced, lest they besmirch the pristine majesty of “progress.” And this process of refurbishing humanity is then presented as the highest form of morality. You see, the elite must always be better than us.

I had hurriedly spoken of all this in my previous article, which the Postil was so very kind to actually publish, and I must also here thank the many, many kind souls that responded to what I wrote, both positive and a few negative as well. I had expected simply to be ignored! And many wanted me to expand further on my brief remarks about heroism, remarks that I had made within the context of populism. What follows, then, is about heroism of the people – and here I must acknowledge Beethoven who set the precedence, when he wrote the Eroica, his Third Symphony.

But first there is need for clarity. What does “Trumpism” actually mean? First, it is nothing more than a convenient way to express condemnation or hatred for anything to do with Trump – because he is the Boogeyman of anyone deemed “cultured,” “learned,” “sophisticated,” “refined,” and all those moral things that the elite seek to be but are not. Second, and more importantly, Trumpism is the grand fable of evil itself, hence the four years of endless hysteria (an apt term for a hyper-feminized world). Thus, Trumpism means racism, provincialism, idiocy, vulgarity, and so forth – but it has also wrongly come to mean populism and nationalism.

Of course, “Trumpism” is a term not defined by Trump himself; rather, it is a term created to define him. It is the Wunderwaffe in the hands of those who hate him. Nothing will ever change this narrative. That is his legacy. And in it has been swept up into populism, so that Trumpism is also defined as “populism.”

Thus, the immediate challenge is to untangle populism from Trumpism, because the one has nothing to do with the other. Certainly, Trump has mentioned, “the movement,” “our movement,” or even “the movement we’ve built.” But he has never really defined what he means by “the movement.” Perhaps, he has his own version of “Trumpism,” one no doubt tied up with wanting to see America “great again,” but only under his leadership. Fair enough. But such a “movement” is not populist, because Trump is not a populist, even though he often uses populist rhetoric (for political gain). He is a neoliberal who wishes to do what all neoliberals do – manage from the top down.

For those of us who actually are populists, the real “movement” has nothing whatsoever to do with Trumpism, and is, in fact, a very old one. This means that emotional attachment aside, populism must break clean from Trumpism, no matter how alluring the siren-song of the “Office of the Former President” and Trumpian “think tanks.” Why? Very simply because populism fails whenever it is tried up with the fortunes or ambitions of one man. Populism must remain with the people – it must remain organic, from the ground up.

So, let us get rid of the notion that somehow Trump invented populism and that populism “belongs” to him, as his “movement.” Populists supported him because he said he would further their cause. That never happened, of course. To highlight the necessary distinction between Trumpism and populism, let me quote extensively from an article by William A. Peffer, the Kansas Populist (People’s Party) Senator. The article dates from 1898.

First, Peffer speaks of why populism is necessary:

“The suspension of specie payments forced the government to adopt a new monetary policy, and the ignorance and prejudices of lawmakers afforded bankers a tempting opportunity, of which they promptly availed themselves, to use the public credit for purposes of speculation. Our currency was converted into coin interest-paying bonds, the word ” coin” was construed to mean gold, and the minting of silver dollars was discontinued. The general level of prices fell to the cost line or below it, and the people were paying seven to ten per cent, annual interest on an enormous private debt. Personal property in towns and cities was rapidly passing beyond the view of the tax gatherer. Agriculture was prostrate. Farmers were at the mercy of speculators; the earth had come under the dominion of land lords; forests and mines were owned by syndicates; railway companies were in combination; wealth and social influence had usurped power, and the seat of government was transferred to Wail Street.”

Sound familiar? The syndicates of our age are the tech giants, the crony capitalists, the supranational agencies. Peffer continues…

“These abuses were fruits of our legislation. Congress had forgotten the people and turned their business over to the money changers. Both of the great political parties then active were wedded to these vicious policies which were despoiling the farmers and impoverishing the working classes generally… a new party was needed… And hence it was that the People’s party was born. It came into being that government by the people might not perish from the earth. It planted itself on the broad ground of equality of human rights. It believed the earth is the people’s heritage and that wealth belongs to him who creates it; that the work of distributing the products and profits of labor ought to be performed by public agencies; that money should be provided by the government and distributed through government instrumentalities so that borrowers might secure its use at an annual charge not exceeding two per cent., which is equal to two-thirds of the net average savings of the whole people.”

Peffer then describes where populism belongs on the political spectrum…

“[The People’s Party’s]… principles were essentially different from those of the other great parties on every fundamental proposition. Republicans and Democrats were given to old ideas in politics and law. Formed for altogether different purposes, they did not take kindly to any of the proposed reforms that would change established policies… in case of resistance [their]… right may be enforced by the use of military power, if need be.”

And, then, Peffer gives the definition of what populism is all about…

“Populists… believe that every child has exactly equal rights with those persons who were here when he came; that he is entitled to a place to live, and that, equally with his fellow-men, he is entitled to the use of natural resources of subsistence, including a parcel of vacant land where he may earn a livelihood. Populists believe that the interests of all the people are superior to the interests of a few of them or of one, and that no man or company of men should ever be permitted to monopolize land or franchises to the exclusion of the common rights of all the people or to the detriment of society. They believe that what a man honestly earns is his, and that the workman and his employer ought to have fair play and an equal showing in all disputes about wages. They believe that railways and canals, like the lakes and navigable rivers, ought to belong to the people. They believe that money, like the highway, is made to serve a public use; that dollars, like ships, are instruments of commerce, and that citizens ought not to be subjected to inconvenience or loss from a scarcity of money any more than they should be hindered in their work or their business by reason of a shortage in the supply of wagons, cars or boats. They believe that the people themselves, acting for themselves through their own agencies, should supply all the money required for the prompt and easy transaction of business; that in addition to silver and gold coin, government paper, and only that, ought to be issued and used, that it should be full legal tender and that there should be no discrimination in favor of or against anything which is allowed to circulate as money… It will be seen that every proposition in this code is intended to be in the interest of the great body of the people and in opposition to class distinctions.”

Lastly, Peffer looks beyond 1898:

“Conditions will not improve under the present regime. Times will get no better. Stringency and panic will be here on time again and again as of old, for neither Republicans nor Democrats offer a preventive. They do not seem to know what ails the country and the world. High tariff is but heavy taxation, and free silver alone will not give work to the idle nor bread to the poor. The case needs heroic treatment, just such as the People’s party proposed.”

All we have to do is replace “free silver with “universal income,” and the populist message is no different.

This little exercise is simply meant to show that Trump does not own populism – and when he wore its mantle, he did not value it, and let it drag in the swamp of political corruption. Perhaps he could never distinguish populism from “popularism.”

But, along with Trumpism, there is another chain that binds populism- that of the left-right paradigm which is hawked by the hucksters of the elite to forever sow dissension among the people. It is liberal against conservative, communist against capitalist, left against the right… and so goes the cant. But notice that in the “grand struggle” between Antifa and the Patriots – Jeff Bezos keeps making more and more money. We hate – they profit.

Another populist, Huey Long, had this to say about all this in the 1930s: “God told you what the trouble was. The philosophers told you what the trouble was; and when you have a country where one man owns more than 100,000 people, or a million people, and when you have a country where there are four men, as in America, that have got more control over things than all the 120 million people together, you know what the trouble is.”

Thus, the great “themes” of populism have remained unchanged over the past 120-plus years since Peffer put pen to paper. What he spoke of is what we still speak of, namely:

  • Nations are people; nations are not political systems
  • The people are holders of true power
  • The socio-economic clamp of the elite over the people must be loosened
  • The people must stop tolerating their slavery

A word here also needs to be said about “nationalism,” a term that is also much-maligned, as it is wrongly associated with ”Nazism” (but that is a discussion for another time). Nationalism means tending the welfare of the nation. Why is that wrong? And a nation is the collective of the people who consent to tend the territory they inhabit. That link with Nazism was fabricated by academics after Word War Two. So, should we let academics define and control how we are to live?

But when the elite deploy phrases like “Trumpism,” “nationalism,” “populism” they are effectively stripping people not only from the human community but from the territory of the nation itself. This disenfranchisement means that the academically imagined place that is “America” (the land of endless progress) has no room for anyone classified as a follower of Trumpism, because such a person has no legitimacy in public space. But this argument is also the Achilles’ heel of the elite (some may call it their arrogance) – for whenever people are denied legitimacy that is precisely the strength of populism, which solely exists to right this wrong. Nations need righteous anger – and lots of it.

Now, here is where heroism comes in. How is populism to be divested from Trumpism? The latter has no future because it is tied up with one individual; the former has a strong future because it is the very life of the people. Some might, at this point, object that I am making assumptions about a monolithic entity that I call “the people.” So, let me clarify.

The world as we now know it is vertical – there are those at the top, and those that live “below the salt,” as it were. It is no longer about management of the political arena, with two teams that call themselves the “left” and the “right,” and may the best man win. Rather, as Peffer observed long ago, “people are superior to the interests of a few.” This is why I say that the distinction between the left and the right is no longer valid, let alone relevant – for the elite (those at the top) treat both the left and the right the same way, even though it may not seem like it. Thus, for example, the massive destitution that now lies before us, because of the Covid lockdowns, which the elite very effectively manage (“for our own good”), makes no distinction between the left and the right. Joblessness and despair are not party players. Left or right, we are all poorer and the more hemmed in by relentless social engineering, that is, “the Great Reset.” Left or right, our humanity is dissipating because we now prefer to deny each other’s humanity – and we call that “morality.”

And once again a few things to consider:

  • Do not think voting will make you free. It cannot. It only empowers those perpetually entrenched in the system.
  • Do not tie your hopes and expectations to the political fortunes of one man, or even one party.
  • Do not believe anyone who tells you that change can happen from the top down. That is always a lie.
  • Do not trust the government. It has no interest in you. (Now with technology and voting machines, it does not even need your vote).

Society is all about consent. When a citizenry finally learns to withhold it from the elite – and also abandons all their institutions created to enslave us – only then will the people break free. But withholding consent requires high heroism, because often it means fighting all alone, without recognition, without praise.

If you are ready to fight many Goliaths, with whatever you have right now, no matter how meager your strength or ability, without reward, you are a populist. You are the real hero. Do not let the media label you. Be fearless, for the future will never belong to Goliath.

C.B. Forde lives in a rural area, where he still practices what he preaches.

The featured image shows, “The Village Dabce,” by Pieter Breughal the Elder.

January 6th: Requiem, Heroism And Renewal

To those engaged in the decades-old fight against globalism, what occurred in Washington, DC, on January 6th 2021, comes as no surprise. Defeat and tragedy are expectations when the individual must, with unending heroism, contend with institutional power – which in its vastness is both disconcerting and frightening.

But then, no one ever said that heroism was easy. Being heroic means being very lonely, for just when you think you are surrounded by supporters, you find that you’re all alone and must fight alone. Being heroic means never quitting, that you reach deep down inside yourself to tap into strength with which to overcome insurmountable odds, because there is no one to help you. Being heroic means starting all over again when everything falls apart because there are no other options. All this is clearly summed up by Winston Churchill’s observation: “Success is a series of failures.”

What happened on January 6th was certainly heroic – the people asserting their will on those that seek to rule over us. However, as often happens, the people were also betrayed by those who acted as their leaders. When push came to shove, said leaders were well-ensconced in their various safe-places.

But first the defeat and the tragedy. I know several people who went to Washington. Their expectation was that the man whom they had implicitly trusted was gathering them in the capital because he had a trump card up his sleeve, which he would at last reveal – and that he would at long last bring down the hammer to finally right some of the wrongs. In other words, people who came in their hundreds of thousands to Washington – came seeking justice. It was not a show of force, but a show of unity against the tightening vise-grips of tyranny.

Instead, what awaited the people was grim tragedy. Sure, there were fiery speeches, with the right phrases shouted to elicit cheers. Demands were made from those present (“You’ll never take back our country with weakness – you have to be strong!”). Of course, no one explained to the crowd why it had been gathered, let alone what was expected from it, and what being “strong” meant.

But a lot of steam was let-off. And that was it. And that was the only point of the entire exercise. There was no card up any sleeve. Heck, there wasn’t even a sleeve. Once the speechifying was done, the leaders expected everyone to just go home. The cast of thousands was no longer needed; it had served its purpose of being useful props in the grand theater of bravura and aggrandization. The same people I know, who attended, afterwards told me – they felt used.

It was more of the usual. Politicians who talk the talk, but are MIA when it comes to doing something. It’s one thing to speechify. It’s quite another to make what you said in the speech reality. There is an old Latin saying, acta non verba (deeds not words). But then who knows Latin any more… Better to spout than to believe.

Every crowd gathers for a reason – and when that reason is missing, there is confusion, followed by frustration and then anger. That is what happened on January 6th, for there was no real purpose to the huge gathering. It was all just to “demonstrate” some vague show of “strength” to an elusive foe. At best, it was a “feel-good” moment. At worst, it was a grand betrayal of the people.

But the dynamics of what occurred next is very telling. We have all seen the videos of people storming the Capitol and being met with police who did not hesitate to use pepper spray, flashbangs, clubs, and a bullet in one instance. Of course, throughout the summer when BLM and Antifa rioted and burned down cities and businesses, the police shot no one – because the rioters were the right type of human beings. In fact, the police was nowhere to be see and so cities burned and some 30 to 40 people died.

January 6th had to be different, because the wrong crowd had gathered. The police were prepared and ready to use all force necessary – and so four people were killed. In the rapidly shifting dynamic of the headless crowd, the vacuum of being leaderless is quickly filled by haphazard action. The violence only happened because those that had organized the rally had no interest in actually leading it – and so people did what seemed sensible – and this led to the tragedy.

When people got inside the House, they milled about in front of the Chamber, inside which police and security personnel stood behind barricaded doors, guns drawn and aimed at the crowd (who were unarmed).

Suddenly, a solitary shot was heard. A woman, with a Trump flag draped around her, crumbled to the floor. She had been shot in the neck. Here is a video, which is vey graphic (discretion is advised). She likely died on the spot, murdered by a security man inside the chamber who can be seen quickly lunging forward and firing. Why did he feel it necessary to use lethal force? Was he commanded to do so? Why did he chose this woman to fire at? She was targeted, because he only fired the one shot and then vanished. Who knows if the truth will ever emerge? Regardless, the video evidence of the crime is very clear.

The victim’s name was Ashli Babbit, a married, 14-year US Air Force veteran, who had completed four tours of duty. The poignancy is replete – here was a woman who fought for her country and who was then murdered in the halls of her Congress. There were no regrets, however – because she was the wrong type of human. And, of course, the police shot nobody, and no guns were drawn, when the right type of humans stormed the Capitol. “Justice” is always swift when meted out to the wrong kinds of humans.

It is alleged that the other three were killed as a result of police action. But that remains to be seen. A policeman also died; it is still unclear as to how.

If anything good can come out of all this misery, it’s this – there can be no alliance between the system of politics that currently exists in all Western democracies and populism. Why? Because the ideology that fuels the system is progressivism (which is always wrongly labeled as something other than what it really is – why that is an interesting question). And progressivism is innately anti-human, for it must continually overcome those that are deemed regressive. People always get in the way of progress, and so they must be steamrolled.

This is why there are now growing calls to “cleanse” America of “Trump supporters,” who have long been labeled as regressive. This is not rhetoric. This is the very root of progressivism. Those that stand in the way of progress, must be overcome or destroyed. In this ideology, humans come in two types – those that are either for or against progress. That is the logic behind violence against Trump supporters – first dehumanize, then destroy. This is now understood as “protecting democracy.”

Society is a great big petri dish in which all kinds of social engineering must forever be implemented in order to demonstrate that progress is indeed being made. This is why the propaganda for “progress” is so relentless.

It’s a simple dynamic really – but a dynamic that is also very poorly understood, and therefore very difficult to fight, let alone defeat. In fact, most people believe in progress and cannot imagine life without it. Things always must get better, and we must use politics to that end. This is also the tragic mistake made by most populists. They do not understand that progressivism is the true enemy of populism – not “Marxism,” “communism,” or “socialism” (whatever these terms still mean). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that populists are forever fighting chimeras.

So, what is the way forward now? It is pointless describing what is wrong, while never saying what to actually do about it. Most people are lost in the playhouse of such description – it keeps everyone busy, while the world is controlled by others. Has that not been the grand theme since 2016 – endless griping about how corrupt everything is, “the swamp,” with no one stepping up to the plate and actually doing something about it? The fact is you cannot use the system to destroy the system. The sooner populists realize that – the further ahead they will be.

To make sure that the deaths of the four MAGA-martyrs are not in vain, this is what populists must do, or start to do. This isn’t easy. Nothing is ever easy – the problem is so vast that populist victories must be small, and they must be incremental.

Here is what I suggest…

Stop complaining. Yes, we all know how bad things are. No one needs more descriptions of how things are falling apart. Of course, it is always easier to criticize than to build. But make an effort to offer hope and encouragement. Don’t traffic in despair. There is a great hunger for vision. True leadership is not about uttering the right slogans and talking point. True leadership is about teaching how to build. In fact, despair is the real “swamp” that is drowning populism.

Stop feeding the beast. Politics is irreparably broken and endlessly corrupt. It cannot be fixed by electing “better” candidates. Instead, learn to create micro-communities. Find ways to grow your own food, create your own electricity, set up your own schools. Learn to control your own lives, rather than relying on the government. Government-control is always tyranny. Build shadow economies so you can stop feeding the system with your taxes, your effort, your ideas and your labor.

Stop being compliant. The system does not work for your benefit. It exists to dominate you. Find ways, no matter how small, to resist. Learn to mark your independence by becoming truly ungovernable. The easiest way is to stop funding political parties with your money. And for Heaven’s sake – do not vote for any of their candidates. Why support the elite who have no interest in you? Unite against their governments, their systems. If you must be political then pool your talents and start a populist party and try to win local elections with your candidates. This is the long-march. Do not look for instant solutions – because there are none.

Stop supporting crony capitalism. Learn to be entrepreneurial. Understand the function and purpose of big money, and find ways and means to subvert it. The easiest way, for example, is to stop supporting mega-corporations – they are all tyrannical. This may sound like complete heresy, but cancel all your social media accounts. Stop shopping at big-box stores. You’ll be the happier for doing so. Do not let large companies define the meaning of your life.

On a positive note, get in the habit of looking for beauty, say, in music, in painting, in gardening, in woodworking. Add to the beauty of the world – no matter how small. Do not let mega-corporations hijack your time.

If, as many are predicting, January 6th is the start of a revolution – make sure it’s the right one. Do not get sucked into the rhetoric of others, who will use you for their ends.

Also, make sure you understand that true revolutions are not political; they are moral and spiritual. Good politics can only be the result of good morals. Looking for good politics first is a fool’s errand. There must be something unchanging and constant to guide human destiny. That is true populism, which clearly understands that human worth can never be defined by political agency.

It’s a tough slog ahead. We will need a lot of populism to get through it. Do not lose your way. Do not lose hope. Build your own populism. That is true liberty. That is true heroism.

C.B. Forde, a former academic, lives in a rural location, where he practices what he preaches.

The image shows, “Der Sämann” (“The Sower”) by Albin Egger-Lienz, painted in 1903.

Bertrand Russell: Preliminary Remarks

Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on May 18, 1872 into a privileged family. His grandfather was Lord John Russell, who was the liberal Prime Minister of Great Britain and the first Earl Russell. Young Bertrand’s early life was traumatic. His mother died when he was two years old and he lost his father before the age of four.

He was then sent to live with his grandparents, Lord and Lady John Russell, but by the time he was six years old, his grandfather also died. Thereafter, his grandmother, who was a strict authoritarian and a very religious woman, raised him.

These early years were filled with prohibitions and rules, and his earliest desires were to free himself from such constraints. His lifelong denial of religion no doubt stems from this early experience. His initial education was at home, which was customary for children of his social class, and later he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he achieved first-class honors in mathematics and philosophy.

He graduated in 1894, and briefly took the position of attaché at the British Embassy in Paris. But he was soon back in England and became a fellow of Trinity College in 1895, just after his first marriage to Alys Pearsall Smith. A year later, in 1896, he published his first book, entitled German Social Democracy, which he wrote after a visit to Berlin.

Russell was interested in all aspects of the human condition, as is apparent from his wide-ranging contributions, and when the First World War broke out, he found himself voicing increasingly controversial political views. He became an active pacifist, which resulted in his dismissal from Trinity College in 1916, and two years later, his views led him even to prison. But he put his imprisonment to good use and wrote the Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, which was published in 1919.

Since he had no longer had a teaching job, he began to make his living by giving lectures and by writing. His controversial views soon made him famous. In 1919, he visited the newly formed Soviet Union, where he met many of the famous personalities of the Russian Revolution, which he initially supported.

But the visit soured his view of the Socialist movement in Russia and he wrote a scathing attack that very year, entitled Theory and Practice of Bolshevism. By 1921, he had married his second wife, Dora Black, and began to be interested in education. With Dora he created and ran a progressive school and wrote On Education (1926) and a few later, Education and the Social Order (1932).

In 1931, he became the 3rd Earl of Russell, and five years later got a divorce and married his third wife, Patricia Spence in 1936. By this time, he was extremely interested in morality and wrote about the subject in his controversial book Marriage and Morals (1932).

He had moved to New York to teach at City College, but he was dismissed from this position because of his views on sexuality (he advocated a version of free love, where sex was not bound up with questions of morality). When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Russell began to question his own pacifism and by 1939 had firmly rejected it, and campaigned hard for the overthrow of Nazism right to the end of the Second World War.

By 1944, he was back in England from the United States, and his teaching position at Trinity College was restored to him, and was granted the Order of Merit. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. During this time, he wrote several important books, such as, An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940), Human Knowledge: Its Scopes and Limits (1948).

His best-known work from this time is History of Western Philosophy (1945). As well, he continued writing controversial pieces on social, moral and religious issues. Most of these were collected and published in 1957 as Why I Am Not A Christian.

From 1949 onwards, he was actively involved in advocating nuclear disarmament. In 1961, along with his fourth and final wife, Edith Finch, he was again put into prison for inciting civil disobedience to oppose nuclear warfare. He spent his final years in North Wales, actively writing to the very last. He died on February 2, 1970.

His range of interests took in the various spheres of human endeavor and thought, for not only was he engaged with mathematics, philosophy, science, logic and the theory of meaning, but he was deeply interested in political activism, feminism, education, nuclear disarmament, and he was a ceaseless opponent of communism. His ideas have greatly influenced the world we live in.

So pervasive is his influence that contemporary culture has seamlessly subsumed the ideas he introduced so that we no longer recognize his impact.

For example, his ideas have forever changed, on a fundamental level, the way philosophy is done, the way logic is dealt with, the way mathematics and science are understood, the view we hold of morality, marriage, the nuclear family, and even the various attempts to stop the spread of nuclear arms – all these concepts owe their beginnings to Russell.

At the very heart of Russell’s thought lies the concept, first elucidated in The Principles of Mathematics, that analysis can lead to truth. By analysis he means the breaking up of a complex expression or thought in order to get at its simpler components, which in turn will reveal the meaning or truth.

Thus, the method involves moving from the larger to the more specific, from the macro to the micro. Russell arrived at this process by suggesting that mathematics and natural languages derived from logic. He extended his approach and stated that the structure of logic could be a useful tool in helping us understand the human experience, which in turn would lead to the working out of disputes.

Thus, in A History of Western Philosophy he shows how the structure of logic is consistent with the way the world works, namely that reality itself is paralleled in logic.

Therefore, this blending of logic and the need to arrive at the truth of reality highlights the second important concern for Russell, namely, metaphysics. In fact, both logic and metaphysics unite and give philosophy its unique approach to uncover truth, which for Russell leads to the understanding of the universe and us. It is this concept that he explores fully in Our Knowledge of the External World.

Although logic is essential to Russell’s philosophy, it is not synonymous with it. Rather, philosophy is to be seen as a larger construct, which certainly begins with logic, but ends with mysticism. It is certainly true that Russell denied the authority of organized religion all his life and preferred to live a life outside prescribed dogmas.

Nevertheless, he recognized the essential mystery that surrounds life, both in its particular representation in the life of humankind and in the larger sphere, namely, in the life of the universe. It is precisely this mysticism that disallowed him an ultimate denial of God existence, and therefore Russell never called himself an atheist; rather he labeled himself an avowed agnostic, or someone who does not know, and cannot know, whether God exists or not.

Thus, in philosophy he found a quest far greater than that embodied by religion or science, and he described this process in Mysticism and Logic.


The photo shows, “New York Movie,” By Edward Hopper, painted in 1939.

Thomas More In His Utopia

Thomas More’s Utopia is a work that is a complex critique of sixteenth-century northern European society. This critique is accomplished by way of postulating various ideal conditions that exist on an imaginary island called Utopia, and then these conditions are contrasted with the conditions prevalent in the Europe of More’s day.

One of these ideal concepts that Utopia gives us is the description of how perfection has been achieved, namely, through the eradication of pride – the root of all evil in humankind.

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Renaissance was coming into its own in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and England (although it was waning in Italy), by way of humanist thinkers.

These northern humanists are sometimes called, “Christian humanists” in that they believed that it was a human being’s privilege to seek happiness in this life, and that this true happiness was based on reason; however this happiness was only truly attained by divine grace.

The northern Renaissance particularly focused on a program of practical reform in a wide range of areas, including religion, education, and government. But there was an inherent tension in this position, since often these humanist reformers were also members of the political establishment – in brief, most were courtiers.

The key ideology of the Renaissance was a conscious turning away from scholasticism and the espousal of particular models. But this turn to the Classics was not a rejection of Christianity; rather it was an attempt to find material with which to reinterpret the essential message of Christianity – the destruction of pride that leads to estrangement of man from God and man from man.

In fact, for the Christian humanists, pride was the root of all evil; it was the grand paradigm wherein the Fall of Man and his salvation could be explained.

Thus rhetoric (the study of communication and persuasion) was associated with eloquence – and to a humanist, eloquence presupposed a nobility in the communication of one’s ideas as well as wisdom, as eloquence was the outward sign of inner wisdom. Beauty was derived from the Classics and wisdom acquired from Christianity.

Therefore, for the humanists, reason was innate in man’s soul, and through reason man could free himself from the grosser bonds of pride and become a creature not far below God himself.

Of course, the program of reform was greatly enhanced by the availability of the printing press. Thus, Desiderius Erasmus wrote continually for the printing press, and the humanists were generally able to promulgate their ideas (and propaganda) more widely than had been previously possible. They also utilized Latin, which served as an international language of Europe. It is within this context of Renaissance humanism that More’s Utopia needs to be read.

The important theme within this context is the use of pride both as an example of what is to be avoided in order to arrive at the perfected state, and as a tool to critique the idea of society itself, which is built upon the largely evil manifestations of pride. More attempts to put his humanist vision within the parameters of practical application, by way of social critique.

In Utopia three characters converse: Thomas More appears as a fictionalized version of himself; Raphael Hythlodaeus is the fictional traveler to exotic worlds; and Peter Giles, More’s young friend from Antwerp, throws in an occasional word or two. The premise of the work seeks to dispense with the entire order based on private property, which is an extension of greed and rooted in civic pride.

More also takes the liberty to suppose a commonwealth based on the pessimism that there is a real need for secular government, which keeps fallen mankind from hurtling into the vortex of perpetual violence.

Of course, the prime source of violence among mankind is pride: sinful human beings have an insatiable desire for things, and this desire translates into pride when those that have more look down upon those who have less, social pride.

Thus we have in Utopia a play on how life might develop in a state that tries to balance human depravity of pride and a communal system that aims to check the destructive individualism of corrupt human nature.

Raphael entertains us by bringing our experience in the ordinary world up against an ideal that we cannot really reach, but one that has about it a certain plausibility. Utopia is a mirror held up to nature, and we see ourselves reflected in it.

The key question that Utopia asks concerns the relationship between our possessions and our souls. Are the conspicuous illusions of wealth (pride) a type of injustice? They are, according to Utopia: “In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can’t, so help me God, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society.”

If pride is measured by a sterile metal like gold, are the people who wear chains of gold not prisoners of their pride? And is it possible, in a zero sum world, where one person’s gain is another person’s loss, that the people who sport such finery are not in fact beggaring others? Thus the root of man’s injustice to man is pride, a conspiracy of those who seek to further their own egos.

If we measure worth by possession, are we not driven by a peculiar and implacable logic to put people to death for theft? More’s work raises this very fundamental question in regard to pride: what is it about possession that distorts vision and makes one person feel better than another?

The six-hour working day in Utopia also represents a perpetual check on an acquisitive society to turn human beings into beasts of burden to be worked as if they had no claim over themselves. For life is an end in and of itself, and not merely an instrument to be used for someone else’s gain.

Without pride, the force of such an imperative to use other people’s lives for personal gain is completely blunted. Thus for More, the root of human depravity is pride, and by eliminating private property, the root of civic and social pride is vanquished.

However, it is important to keep in mind that Utopia, from the beginning is an artificial construct. Some 1760 years earlier, Utopus had dug a channel to separate Utopia from the corrupting lands nearby. As the wise lawgiver, he imposed laws on people who could not or would not create those laws themselves.

But Utopia is afloat in world that is not Utopia: the fear of contamination is very much prevalent. Thus even if civic and social pride within is eliminated, it can still come from without.

This is why the Utopians give great weight to military matters, for a virtuous nation unarmed is quickly swallowed by the voraciousness of the outsider. Thus, there are massive walls around their towns on their island.

Since pride of possession has been vanquished, no locks bar Utopian doors, which open at a touch. The only reason Utopians can imagine the need for privacy is if they had pride: to guard what other do not have. Therefore, conformity is the rule of every house: “When you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all.”

Raphael believes societies other than Utopia are merely conspiracies of the rich. These societies are realms of greed and pride. And pride causes men to measure their welfare not by their well-being, but by having things that other lack, which is irrational and unchristian. Only in Utopia has pride and all its attendant vices been eviscerated from society.

It is because of this evisceration that Utopian polity rests upon common ownership. Through this idea, More could have it both ways: he could explore the implications of a communal way of living without necessarily proposing it, however much he may have felt emotionally or intellectually inclined towards it.

Raphael’s summation of the general advantage of the Utopian way of life betrays the reason for its attractiveness: although no man owns anything, all are rich – “for what can be richer than to live with a happy and tranquil mind, free from anxiety?”

In effect, the Utopians’ repudiation of private property is a remedy that frees them from pride and allows them to live a life that is at once religious and secular, private and public.

Consequently, their world consists of: equality of all things among citizens; love of peace and quiet; and contempt for gold and silver. In short, they have imported the ideals of the monastic life into political and social affairs.

A large part of Book 2, then, describes the happy place freed from the vices of the real world. But here we see that pride is also used to critique the Europe of More’s day. As happy as Utopia is, it is also “No place,” a land that will never be.

At one level, particularly with respect to geography, England and Utopia share a shadowy identity. Utopia is an island separated from the continent by a channel (Amaurotum), its capital city, together with the tidal river Anydrus, and the magnificently arched stone bridge across it, resemble London and the Thames, and the houses reflect those in England.

Thus it is not long before the Utopian illusion dissolves into the reality of England and Europe – places where pride certainly holds sway, and governs all aspects of civil, private, political, and social life.

The importance of pride comes through strongly in Raphael’s description of the Utopians distrust of treaties. In fact, the Utopians never make treaties with any nation, because “in those parts of the world treaties and alliances between kings are not observed with much good faith.”

He then draws a satiric contrast with Europe, meaning the exact opposite of what he says: “In Europe, however, and especially in those parts where the faith and religion of Christ prevails, the majesty of treaties is everywhere holy and inviolable, partly through the justice and goodness of kings, partly through the reverence and fear of the Sovereign Pontiffs.”

Of course, the reality in Europe is otherwise: pride makes all treaties cheap. Thus Utopia gradually describes the polity that an optimistic humanist might envision for England in the context of the contemporary historical Renaissance, through the eradication of pride.

However, the perfected state of Utopia is not without its contradictions, and these contradictions arise from the paradox that lies at the very heart of the book: that rational action can give rise to unreasonable consequences; the Utopians most determined efforts to fulfill the most laudable of intentions often meet with failure.

The most striking example of this is the war they fight on behalf of the Nephelogetes against the Alaopolitans – the Utopians are being good neighbors. Thus the Utopians went to the assistance of the Nephelogetes, who claimed that they had suffered injustice at the hands of the Alaopolitans under the pretext of law.

The outcome was catastrophic: “…whether right or wrong, it was avenged by a fierce war. Into this war the neighboring nations brought their energies and resources to assist the power and to intensify the rancor of both sides.

Most flourishing nations were either shaken to their foundations or grievously afflicted. The troubles upon troubles that arose were ended only by the enslavement and surrender of the Alaopolitans. Since the Utopians were not fighting in their own interest, they yielded them into the power of the Nephelogetes, a people who, when the Alaopolitans were prosperous, were not in the least comparable to them.”

Thus, what people experience is often very different from anything they intend, desire, seek, or foresee. Does the eradication of pride really lead to freedom from all evil?

How is Utopian society kept from reverting to pride? Again, we see many paradoxes. For example, the suffocating constraints on individual liberty required to effectuate the Utopians’ attempt to secure more liberty and leisure for all, or the moral injustice of the rational justice by which they regulate numbers in their families and colonies.

The cost of eradicating pride is the deprivation of some portion of an individual’s will, however rationally or virtually that person might act. Utopia thus contains an inbuilt ambiguity; it represents to a large extent what More wished for, even while he saw that if it could be, which it never could, the human condition would remain essentially unchanged in its character and function.

This point brings us to examine religious pride in Utopia. The essential feature of Utopian religion is that it is not definitive, and it resides in the responsive condition of mind rather than an elaborate and arbitrary dogma.

Its main precepts were instituted by Utopus, who allowed for a range of beliefs and provided for the possibility of wise doubting: “On religion he did not venture rashly to dogmatize. He was uncertain whether God did not desire a varied and manifold worship and therefore did not inspire different people with different views.”

The Utopians must, however, accept two fundamental tenets: that the world is governed by providence, not chance, and that the soul is immortal and will receive rewards and punishments after this life. To believe otherwise is to fall from the dignity of human life.

In practice, they let their faith instruct their reason, so that they are capable of modifying the rational rigor of their epicurean philosophy to allow for the justified existence of their ascetic religious order as well as those who wish to enjoy honest pleasures in marriage.

Thus, for the Utopians, religion is not a source of pride: they cannot say that their belief is better, truer, more righteous than any other belief – a position impossible in the Europe of the day, where to doubt the basic tenets of Christian amounted to heresy.

This point is highlighted if we consider that the Utopians profess a willingness to contemplate the possibility that all their assumptions about God and religion may be false: “If he [a Utopian] errs in these matters or if there is anything better and more approved by God than that commonwealth or that religion, he prays that He will, of His goodness, bring him to the knowledge of it, for he is ready to follow in whatever path He may lead him. But if this form of a commonwealth be the best and his religion the truest, he prays that then He may give him steadfastness and bring all other mortals to the same way of living and the same opinion of God – unless there be something in this variety of religions which delights His inscrutable will.”

Thus we see that the Utopians’ prayers manifest immediate faith and hope, while acknowledging doubt about the verity of faith itself. It is this doubt, therefore, that eradicates pride, since one faith system is no truer than another.

Of course, just a year after Utopia was written, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of Wittenberg Church and began the Reformation, which would see Europe being plunged into blood, and would cause the death of Thomas More himself. European reality and Utopian idealism stand at opposite ends of what could be and what really is.


The photo shows, “The Family of Sir Thomas More,” by Rowland Lockey, painted 1592.

A Return To Humanistic Thinking

True thinking is practical wisdom. To have the ability to judge or decide is not a skill – it is process of reflection, which in its root sense means, “to turn back” one’s thoughts and consider closely. To think critically is to turn back and rediscover the habit of looking for meaning, value and for truth.

Since humans are social creatures, we already possess the ability to think this way. But given the way the educational system functions, ideals are never emphasized.

Perhaps it might be better to refer to critical thinking as “humanistic thinking,” since it is chiefly concerned with the moral improvement of the individual and then, by extension, of society.

How can we rediscover the habit of critical thinking? We can do, by focusing on those aspects of our cognition that skill denies, such as, doubt, questions, ideals, symbolic thinking, the imagination, harmony, and moral judgment.

When we look for meaning and value, we begin with doubt, with hesitation, with being unsure, because we have to decide between two or even more possibilities. Doubt gives us pause, which we often need in order to think things though.

There are two important characteristics of doubt: skepticism, which is a state of disbelief but also an invitation to view an idea or proposition carefully; and wonder, for we ask, how can this be?

Doubt is the very beginning of reflection, of turning thoughts over in our minds, because doubt allows the mind to open up to possibilities unknown.

Doubt breaks down the barriers of assumptions and launches us into the process of building anew. We must be courageous doubters in order to search for value and meaning.

Once doubt pervades the mind, we begin to ask questions. Most people fear questions because nothing uncovers ignorance (a state of mindlessness) faster than a question.

When we ask questions, we are not looking for answers but seeking, inquiring after, the truth (which is faithfulness to reality, both material and ideal). Answers are about with demonstrating skill. But we ask questions to discover the truth.

As a result, there is a strong link between questions and freedom, because only people who are truly free can ask questions; those enslaved in any sense cannot ask questions, because questions have the potential of destabilizing the status quo.

Thus, questions are a threat to those in power. And as for enslavement, it comes in many forms – the most pervasive in our culture is the avoidance of complexity. We want everything to be to be simple.

And here is a strange conundrum: we live in a world that is highly complex and the technology we use daily is highly complex – and yet we put this complexity to simpler and simpler uses, such as language pared down to is bare minimum, as in a text-message. We all have skill with technology – but we are thinking less and less with language.

Here’s an important question to ask – does a good worker need to doubt and ask questions? Or does a good worker simply need to consistently demonstrate skill and expertise? If we cannot formulate questions, are we truly free?

If we accept that questions are an inquiry into truth, then we are led into asking a rather famous question – what is truth? In effect, truth is an ideal. It is not a material thing, but it is something that humanity greatly values. An ideal is an idea that possesses value and meaning.

There is no human culture which does not value truth. Of course, there have been many attacks on the notion of truth – that it is a cultural construct, or that it is closely connected to individuality (hence the term, “truth is relative”).

In other words, since we all have different ideas of what truth is, there is no universal definition of truth; and so every culture in the world creates its own truth; my truth cannot be your truth – and some people even more radically suggest that there is no truth; or put more bluntly, truth is only a matter of personal opinion.

So, if truth does not exist, why bother looking for it? Ultimately, these are dead-end arguments since they do nothing to advance thinking, nor do they help us understand why the search for truth is essential to critical thinking.

Briefly, to say that there is no such thing as truth, or that truth is relative, is a contradiction since we are being told that both these statements are the truth – and should be universally believed, which makes no sense at all.

How can anyone suggest that there is no truth and then expect us to take this statement as the truth?

We have only to look at the world around us – and we find that humanity continues to conduct itself with the idea of truth – people in all cultures want to be right and not wrong, they want to be good and not bad.

Truth should not be confused with belief (which can be personal) – we may believe one thing at one time in our lives and then come to believe something completely different later on in our lives. For example, Nazi Germany believed in murdering Jews. Modern Germany does not believe this.

Beliefs change – truth does not, because it is an ideal. So, in our example, the truth is: murder is wrong. We may misunderstand an ideal or misinterpret it, but truth does not change.

This unchanging quality makes it an ideal. Ideals help us to choose and decide how we want to live our lives. Ideals are intangible structures, blueprints, with which we derive meaning and value.

Why do we feel good when we do good things? And why are we riddled with guilt when we do bad things? Why do we want to love and be loved? Why are we sympathetic? These are all questions of ideals, of truth, of value, of meaning.

Through ideals, we become educated in our goodness. And the truth is – we want to be good. Think of it – all those things that we cherish (love, kindness, hope, goodness, decency, etc.) are ideals.

When we say ideals are examples, we have begun to think symbolically. What does this mean? Simply that we get into the habit of looking for ideals by way of symbols, that is, examples.

Light is a symbol for truth and goodness; its opposite, darkness, is a symbol for falsehood and evil. Symbols give us something concrete, something material, which we can use to start thinking of an ideal (value and meaning), which cannot take on physical form.

The world over, water is symbol of life – and is it any wonder, therefore, that scientists looking for life on Mars are looking for water? The search for life in outer space is both symbolic and ideal.

We know there is life on the planet earth; and since there are planets in our solar system and in space, we have made terrestrial life into an ideal, assuming that life requires certain properties in order to exist – and it is this ideal that scientists search for.

But to think symbolically also means that we have to be imaginative. Imagination is the ability to see relationships between things and between ideas. To use the imagination is to see the underlying truth of things.

Thus, for example, to want freedom is an imaginative act, because it is insight into what we really value and what gives us meaning. Freedom is a particular kind of relationship between the individual and society.

To want freedom means that we see the essential purpose of life – to have freedom to live as we see fit – and it also means that we see the truth of what it means to be alive.

Symbolic thinking is the process of uniting ourselves with ideals. Freedom is an ideal – and we individually unite ourselves to this ideal way of living: we want to be free.

Closely allied to symbolic thinking is the concept of harmony, which is the ability to see relationships even in things and ideas that may seem at first to be diametrically opposed to one another.

In other words, it is the ability to see how things and ideas fit together. All too often thinking involves an agonistic attitude – ideas need to be “argued (demonstrated)” or even “attacked,” and “defended.”

To look for harmony is a crucial aspect of critical thinking, since a habit of seeking convergence and relationships advances thought, which means that relationships engender newer ideas.

These various aspects of critical thinking are dependent upon the reason behind why we need to think in the first place.

Critical thinking is about forming moral judgments that provide us with value and meaning, both of which suggest that we want to understand how we ought to live and what we ought to do.

Critical thinking is about educating our moral character, though which we can discover how we ought to live in order to be good in a good society and what we must do to be good in a good society.

Thinking, therefore, is never done in a vacuum. Thinking is always about context – and humanity’s context is the world. And what is the world? It is the construct in which we live our lives – and as such, it is ideas placed upon the physicality of the planet earth to make our lives happy and fulfilling and to allow each of us to understand what gives us meaning and value.

Let us now start the process of rediscovery and come to understand what we ought to do to become humanistic thinkers so that we may know how we ought to live in the good society.


The photo shows, “The Teachers,” by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky, painted in 1901.